Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stay at home

This is not a typical post for me. It's not that I try to hide the everyday from this blog, 
it's more that I generally roll with the punches and I quite honestly think most of my 
minutae is pretty boring stuff that no-one would be interested in anyway. At the 
moment, though, I seem to have lost my ability to roll ;) I'm in a funk. I'm struggling 
with that hairy subject of self worth and being a stay-at-home mum.

I've had a couple of things happen recently. First, a much-loved family member (who 
is affectionately known for calling a spade a spade) made a throw-away comment that 
out of all of us kids she'd honestly thought that I was the one who would have made 
something of their life. (The inference, of course, being that I hadn't). 

This was coupled with a few other occasions where I've been talking to interesting 
people about their lives and then been totally thrown by that scariest of all questions 
(for me) "So, Kylie, what do you do?"... 

Well, how do you answer that? Often, compared to the things they've just being talking 
about the only answer I feel capable of making is... "Nothing". Usually I hesitate and 
mumble a pathetic reply about crocheting and screen printing... and it really does 
sound so lame I try to change the subject as soon as I can.

Naturally, it doesn't help when they laugh (thinking I'm joking) and, strangely, it's even 
worse when they quickly hide their surprise and assume a trying-to-look interested 
expression. You can almost see their minds flailing about for a follow-up question. I 
don't blame them for these responses... I mean, it is pretty lame juxtaposed with what 
we've been talking about minutes before. As I said, I try to put them out of their misery 
by quickly changing the subject. What hurts is my ego... I can feel the downgrading 
in status as a tangible thing.

The thing is I'm not an uneducated person. I have 3 degrees and can intelligently hold 
my own in conversations about most topics. I've made some bad career decisions
 along the way but then I can't regret anything I've done because all of these decisions 
have led me to where I am now and I wouldn't change that. I feel so lucky that I've been 
able to be here for my kids and so very fortunate that I can afford to indulge in my passion 
for making. 

In moments of frustration I will rant and rave at my family that I don't have a life and that 
all I do is facilitate theirs. On one level, this is true, but it's not really truthful. I love my life
and see it as a very privileged one for the reasons stated above.

There are times when I long to exercise my brain more and fantasize about doing 
something 'worthwhile'. I've been talking about getting my Masters in Art History for a 
decade now... or doing that Textile Design degree at RMIT and would the family really 
mind if I disappeared off to Melbourne for 3 years? ;) But yes, I totally understand that 
all of this would only be a public legitimisation of the reading and practical work that 
I'm doing for my personal enjoyment... that it would be not about me, but about proving
 something to others.

So, I don't do it because it would be for all the wrong reasons and this 
cycle of feeling unworthy perpetuates itself. 

At the beginning of this year I felt so positive about this new start I've made with Paravent.
After having my shop name taken from me, I decided I would rebrand and register my new
name, work to create a definite presence so it can't happen again. Through this I began
to feel a wonderful sense of purpose and identity... actually, it's all about having an 
identity, isn't it, once you stay at home to look after children?

I think the problem is I fall into the trap of looking from the outside in, instead of the other
way around. We have to work really hard to maintain a sense of self when we don't have
the identity of a career to define us. Knowing who you are and what you want to achieve
can be a blurry concept, all fuzzy around the edges, when you don't have a structure 
within which to orient yourself. 

A friend has suggested to me that it's all about confidence and 'talking yourself up' in
 conversation... but that's just not me. I'd feel like a fake and a self-important loser.
Maybe I just need to not care what others think of me (and yeah, that'll be easy!).

So, how do you do it? How do you ground yourself and stay centered? How
do you react when people ask what you do? Another big one... what do your
children say when asked what you do? Mine tell people I'm an artist... and I'm
still unsure whether that's because they see me that way or whether it's a less
embarrassing option to admit to... (don't forget, I've got teenage girls!).

Okay, sorry for the long rant. If you've made it this far - thank you :)
And if you have the time, I'd love to know how you deal with these issues.


  1. You just need to find some words to describe yourself that you are happy to hear, happy to say and believe. Here are some to try out! Creative, Textile Designer, online business owner, contemporary crafter, mother, contemporary fibre designer, artist, working from home, etsy seller, crochet designer, wifey, good friend! I here you but at the end of the day do what makes you happy, success is happiness, not a job title!
    I'm an visual arts teacher trying to macramé my way out of my day job, so I can be a good mother, wife and crafts person! I'm still getting my head around being called a "creative".
    Chin up! Xx

    1. I'm also a rotten speller! I blame the iPad :)

  2. This is such a great post - I think we all suffer from the same identity crisis! You're lucky your children describe you as what they do. Mine tell people I stay at home and spend their daddies money!!!!

    I agree with Pippi up above - you need find words that you are happy to hear. People will have opinions regardless of what you say!

  3. Dear Kylie, I love your post. I can feel your words as if they were mine. I have struggled so much with these things , and I too have to deal with all sorts of people who disrespect what I do including some very close to me. I think we should take some responsibility though, and take charge of our own feelings about what we do. Yes, stand up for ourselves. As Pippa said, find the words, clarify what we do and give it a name or many names, as many as are needed. Feel proud of what we do and who we are. (And if we not proud then fake it until we are...!) With my older children moving on to adulthood, I have no regrets for having been a mom full-time first, and then everything else second. If anything I regret not having done enough for them and with them. But I should have been more clever with my money, and my work. I should have stood up for myself more and claimed the importance of my creative work as well. What I am trying to say is it has to start from us, from inside. I really, really , really feel every word of yours, and I have admired your intellect and your extensive knowledge and your art making for all this time, and I so wish you could see it too. Have you considered an online course? Maybe brainstorm about your options more. I am also thinking of going back to university in a year or so. I have a friend who finally got her PHD in her late fifties and is now teaching at a university as her children are almost all grown up.
    Everything is possible dear Kylie. Lots of hugs-

  4. I hear you Kylie.
    As soon as I answer the question 'what do you do?', people switch off.
    A mum up at school - 'oh, veeery arty'. (when i mentioned an exhibition i was in)
    And another in a sewing shop when I was choosing a machine, I showed the owner a couple
    of photos after she asked to see what I do. Someone else there said 'theres always one show off isn't there!'
    Made me feel sick.
    I'm almost at the point of not worrying what other people think,
    because sometimes it just doesn't matter what you say - you can't win!!

  5. To be there for your kids and be able to to indulge in a passion, sounds to me that you've succeeded. And, you do it so well (I'm sure that you're great with your kids as well). Yay that is something to be proud of.

    As for me I say: It depends who's asking and what mood I'm in. Ha. I can understand your confusion Kylie but in my eyes you're really something :)

    I love your kids description as well!

  6. Forgot to mention. Love your incredible piece here!

  7. Kylie, i do understand your rant and pain even though I'm not a mum and I do have an answer, and I somewhat do stuff. " I make bears " is not most people take a interest, they either think it is weird and eyes glaze over THey take more interest in " and I do some reception and front of house at two different places" which I only do to support my passion /love for making the bears. ( which to me is far more boring the)
    but I've had the same thing said to me about the confidence, it all being in how I say it, about talking myself up. THat because I feel no one is interested or they'll think it is weird, I say it shyly meekly and almost like I'm embarassed by it. WHich I'm not.
    I'm so glad you've not "done" something for the wrong reasons approval from the outside. But I know as someone who spends too much time worrying about what others think . And that's what it comes down to doesn't it, that as long as we are happy and feel good about what we do, then really that's all that matters. I love what I do , and it makes me ahppy. I know easier said than done, but the truth is we can't make everyone happy or have everyone's approval, it's not possible and it will make us unhappy. I come from a highly intellectual and "good doing" family, and I know that they think I should just grow up and get a real job. It hurts so please don't think i'm lecturing, i'm not at the good place yet.
    And I agree with elizabeth, your kids description works well. As to me i'm very clear on what you do, and feel you are one of the most inspiring makers around xo

  8. Kylie, Kylie, Kylie, three degrees, you clever thing. Not only clever but talented in many different areas.
    You are all the things Pippa described you as and more. A wonderful mum who stays at home to look after her family instead of paying someone else to do it . A person who also has the opportunity to follow her creativity.
    You are in a very enviable position..........
    The dear family member who made the throw away you need their approval?
    Do you need to live up to their expectations? Love them accept them for what they are and then get on with what you do best and try not to compare yourself to others.

    Now that I've hit the big 5 ooooooh I feel more confident and happy with myself and what I do .My crafting/creating brings me a great amount of enjoyment and selling my makes at my monthly market brings me in contact with people who 'get' what I do and appreciate my 'style' of creating. Once upon a time I did care what people thought and no doubt still do somewhat, but I've realised not everyone will like my work as I don't always like what others do, but can still appreciate the skill and talent.
    When people ask what I do, I still haven't found the right words to describe it and make light of it by saying I recycle old blankets and jumpers, cut them up and sew them back together as something different!! BUT I've sold my 'work' to people all over the world, who are prepared to spend their hard earned pennies on one of my creations. Hey it may just be a tea cosy or a soft toy but it gives me such a buzz. If people unthinkingly make disparaging comments, then I just let them know, they're still standing on the platform and missed the train!! Then I remind myself and them that it takes all sorts to make up this world we live in......

    Claire X

  9. Kyle, I do undertand everything you've written. But I think you should just say, "I do one of the hardest, must unforgiving, under-appreciated jobs there is: parenting full-time." I know, the world doesn't always see it that way, and people can make you feel small. But oh my goodness, what is more important than pouring time into a human life, into a person who will someday make an impact on the world you live in? And it's so very, very hard to do it full-time. (Not that I'm saying it's harder than the jobs of moms who work outside the home--don't want to spark that debate. We ALL work hard.)

    What you're doing is so valuable, and it really sounds to me, if I can be completely frank, like you need to value *yourself* and what you do *more.* If you aren't proud of it, if you don't feel strongly that it's super important, than you're going to feel "lame" when you have those conversations. If you really feel passionate about this job you have (both with your children and your art), then you will *proudly* tell them what you do. Smile and own it and don't let them make you feel small. If you are happy and it's important to you, that is good enough!

  10. I think an artist is very fitting. But it doesn't matter what I think. You know that it is all about the feelings on the inside.
    Those people you've been speaking to might very well have been talking themselves up. And what's not interesting about crochet and screen printing... and if they do look awkward and disinterested then move on... find someone else to talk to. Do you really want to be speaking with someone who doesn't find creative pursuits a turn on? Clearly they're dull (and perhaps a little too self important) and you need to move on and find someone else to chat with.
    As for self image and self worth. What is "what we do" so important? Will people be rattling off my resume at my funeral or will they be talking about the relationships I built? The funny stories? The treasured moments? Will I be remembered for what I did or for who I was? When I invest in my family I invest in those relationships and that investment will be carried with those children through to when they're adults and that investment will be passed on to their children too... ? I think. I hope.

  11. Oh you poor duckie - you need a life hug!
    What do I tell people what I do?
    Huh, they stopped asking me the moment I had a child!
    'Duck' knows why they don't ask - maybe I don't look like the person who had a career anymore? Maybe I'm too frumpy to be anything other than a mumma? Huh? I don't know? I do know that I had a baby later on in life - but hey, I didn't sit on my arse for 20yrs having a career to then have it become null & void once I birthed a baby.
    And do you know when all this sank in... the moment we applied for a mortgage & my occupation was put down as Homemaker to make the paperwork "easier" - if that is my career now then where was my training for it? There was no job application process for this nor an interview nor a 3mth trial period - nope, nothing except a lot of pushing & panting in the maternity ward.
    So next time someone asks you that question, reply from the heart... So Kylie, what do you do know? Answer... anything that you damn well feel like!

  12. Really fab post Kylie, Suspect I have much to say on this subject, but I only popped in quickly, and now i have to dash off to make packed lunches and deliver children to summer schools and childminders. I will be back at some point soon! xx

  13. People write good things here in their comments, I have not much to add.
    I think many people do not understand creative people, let alone if you have a creative career. How do you stay self centered? Try to decide on what you want to focus, make a schedule, talk to people and ask for their support, and go for it.
    Please do not get hit by indifferent behavior of people and their comments. What I would like to say in respond to what you write is too long and also there is this language hurdle… Big hug!

  14. Kylie. these kinds of opening and airing out posts really are so good to do once in a while. for me as a reader and blog pal it helps me feel closer to you on a different level, like gf's chatting about introspective bits of our lives - you've read my "stuff" and now i read yours. Kylie, right from the get-go of this piece i hear you and feel akin to the mojo-less-ness. when you say "i generally roll with the punches" what i know from experience is that as we go through the various trials in our lives those punches begin to feel more like taps cos the severity gets either numbed or you begin to realize there is always gonna be a different day. one where the tables turn and all becomes right again.

    i wish that for you sooner rather than later! it greatly frustrates and angers me when people want to rain on others parades. or at the very least put them down for their own passions. it makes no logical sense and i for one know that YOU are the better person here! definitely, no shadow of a doubt. i will also voice my opinion about being a stay at home, pure heaven! it's what i've dreamt of since i was little - i've been having my own acceptance issues with not being able to conceive but have now come into the place of peace with it. my tangled words can't quite convey how i see you and your creative, full of love life. i look to you as a source of inspiration, having the talents and clarity of mind you do is something i wish i had too.

    i recently went back to my counselor(who i've seen on and off for many years). my question and my darkness was all about "who am i, what is my purpose?" i've felt so lost and not knowing why i'm here. after an hour or so i had the hugest epiphany moment, i discovered that my purpose is to love. simple right, couldn't see it for myself at all or even if i did i probably wouldn't have felt it was a worthy purpose anyway. she helped me to realize that i'm closing down spaces of my heart because they've been wounded by moments like you speak of here.

    fooey on those who come around and dampen you or snuff out your hope filled eyes. you do not need permission to allow yourself the right to live your own life as you want it to be. you are an artist, if i had a Mom who was that i'd be proud as anything to talk about it all over the place. i'd be proud to have you as a Mom, a sister or a friend. you are a good person, one who cares and gives of herself with unconditional love. so you should receive it all back in kind pretty lady! many blessings for you to give yourself the props and accolades, smash that crackly, broken record right up this minute. change the tune and the rest will flow back to you again so you'll regain your true harmony. ♥

    pea ess: have you heard of Brene Brown? when you have time take a look at her talks, they're quite uplifting and really centered exposures of how we should not shame ourselves and be courageous creatures. xo

  15. Oh Kylie... argghhh I SO feel for you! ((big hugs))

    I think you are a truely an inspiring, creative and talented woman! You have the best job in the world... SAHM and being able to pursue your creativity! I really admire you :)

    Don't listen to those naysayers!!! People can be SO crap sometimes... who the heck do they think they are!? Don't give them the time of day, they don't deserve your company! Grrrr!!! I always think that they must be very sad on the inside, if they can't appreciate what someone else does!!! Sorry, I always get quite cross about people like that!

    I too have suffered with the SAHM and self worth issues! I've had some high flying jobs in the past but was never truely happy sitting in a horrid, soul destroying office all day but then I became a mum and it all changed... I had a bit of a SAHM identity crisis but then found screen printing! Best thing I ever did was do the course, it felt like it was what I was ment to do... I love it so much! I feel so proud to call myself Screen Printer/Textile Designer/Artist to anyone who will listen! What more could I ask for.. I get to be at home with my little man and I get be creative too! I feel very lucky! :)

    Saying all that... I still have my ups and downs and questioning myself! But I think that's quite normal... we are only human!

    I think we are so lucky to have such a great supportive creative blog community and that we can reveal our true selves and it's all totally ok :)

    Hope you feel better soon! xxx

  16. I completely know where you are coming from in all this Kylie and have the exact same feelings of self worth. It's crazy because I would shout to you that you are immensely talented and are doing so many worthwhile things that you should be so proud of. But do I say that to myself? No! I cower when am in company, dreading people asking me what I do? How is all going? Why do I dread it? What's that all about?! I too quickly try to change the subject! Then when some Dr or lawyer friends tell me how talented I am, I feel such a fraud compared to what they do. We should be able to hold our heads up high and proudly stand as one. I actually think that's why our online community is so important as we are in a place where we know and can talk proudly about what we do.
    Let's agree to hold our heads up high and shout about our amazing talents and achievements! x

  17. Kylie, can't believe I nearly missed this post! You know what I love about you? One of the things I love about you is the insight and intellect and humility you bring to your readers and friends. Sadly the outside world just isn't that evolved yet and has no other way to appreciate people than how they contribute to the economy - what they are seen to be doing, not who they are. I spent almost a decade of my life bedridden or house bound with illness. I did...nothing. Literally nothing, but just be. And although it was painful and sad and I still grieve for what was lost I also look back at it as some of the richest years of my life. Which is funny because by the world's standards I amounted to nothing at the time. Still we wrestle with the ego don't we and the outside world suggesting we have amounted to 'nothing'. It's true that since I have begun studying I have been able to hold my head up higher..but how sad, that I couldn't feel that way for the 11 years I was home 'doing nothing' looking after my kids. Surely that was more important than getting some studying done? I really dont know what the answer is for women at home doing a great job with their kids, how to hold their head up above all others even when the world confers such low status to their efforts. It kinda sucks. Just in case you need reminding - you are a standout person: intelligent, generous, sincere and talented. I nominate you for cloning (my highest compliment by the way).

  18. oi! you're an artist! plain and simple. don't be afraid to say it (like i am!) it's taken me a loooong time. i have various levels to the 'what do you do' question. first i say i'm an illustrator because saying artist seems to pleased with myself. why?! then i say i have an online shop and that i sell prints and cards. luckily people are usually pleasantly surprised and interested, so who are these philistines you are mixing with!

    you have so much going on kylie, i can't believe you would say 'nothing'. you're an artist - if ever there was one. now start believing it.

    secondly, i think you need a bit of this in your life: watch her little video.
    major hugs. x

  19. HI Kylie, I came across your post the other day but didn't have time to reply. It did, however, dwell on my mind through the night. The way I see it is you are a fibre artist. I think your friend is right, say it loud and proud- because you should be proud. Your work is beautiful in the design and execution!
    It is hard to explain
    sometimes though I know- mostly it comes out of my mouth as a complicated jumble of ideas. I really need to figure out a stock answer that encapsulates what I do succinctly.One my bestys visibly tunes out when I am trying to tell her what I am up too creatively. This hurt me, but I have come to the conclusion that some people just don't get it...and thats fine I guess because I don't get her love for crappy serial killer novels. I have found myself more recently connecting with people that DO get it, and are supportive and positive and inspiring. I always read your posts because I find what YOU do is inspiring and your blog is so honestly written. I hope, a few days down the track, you are feeling a bit better about it all! Lynda

  20. Oh Kylie, I'm sending you the biggest fattest virtual hug EVER!
    Listen to your kids, they are natural geniuses. You most definitely are an artist.
    Paravent is a brilliant vehicle that will propel you from strength to strength.
    And I think of myself as so very lucky to be here to witness it.
    Your family members are just completely out of the loop that's all.
    Talk about yourself as we, your blog buddies, see you and they'll be in awe.
    xx Alisa
    ps. Thanks for your lovely comment on my interview, your support means the world. : )

  21. oooh, Kylie ~ i moved house and had no internet to speak of for a while and missed this.
    sounds so very familiar. that desire to make it all into something that can be described and validated! i guess the unknown is what makes it hard and also keeps the interest up? i guess structure can be over rated and not what creating is about anyway!
    you have such a strong personal style with everything you do, you could use any name really. artist/designer of many things xx

  22. Thank you Kylie for articulating what I think many of us feel regardless of whether we stay home to raise kids, work outside the home or are lucky enough to do what we love full-time. Nothing you do needs to be validated by anyone but you, but sometimes it's hard to remember that when we feel like we aren't living up to expectations (even worse, our OWN expectations).

    I think it's wonderful that your kids describe you as an artist - I wish I had the confidence to describe myself that way, instead of first mentioning my day job when asked what I "do", then muttering almost under my breath that I also make stuff. I guess it comes down to building confidence in ourselves and our creative work and realizing that we are lucky to be able to do something creative at all. A friend of mine recently said to me, "Wow, it must be great to be able to do what you love!" and she's right. Now it's about figuring out how to do it full-time.

    Your work is amazing, and like everyone else here has already said, you should be proud of what you do and hold your head high :)

  23. Hi kymie, thinking about my family, i feel exactly the same.
    but being with my friends, who are all trying to make a living from what they do, and most of them are 'artists' i feel happy to be busy with these things that truly make me happy. more than doing a fulltime job that brings in a lot of money.
    i'm sure in that way you've succeeded, no?

    don't worry, i think from all these comments you will realize you are not alone in this!

  24. I remember answering to 'I'm just a mum' - I would get upset with myself when I responded with this, but I thought it was what people were thinking anyway and was saving them the trouble. I soon snapped out of that way of thinking because we all know we're not 'just' mums. There is way too much pressure for woman to return to work in todays age - Kylie, if you can be fortunate enough to be at home doing what you enjoy, then keep doing it I say. You don't need to prove anything to anyone - no ones business!

  25. Kylie, never listen and be bothered by these remarks! All I see here is the blossoming of a creative person. Think of the greatest Louise Bourgeois!
    Listen only to your guts, follow yor dreams and work hard. Learn to be assertive and cut short when people start bombarding you with doubts and questions and when they ask you what you do, tell them: I' m an author of a blog, a maker and a mum! And then handle them your business'll see, they will never ask you again!.or might be intrigued by what you do! With family members is the same, be assertive, patient and don' t give attention to criticism that is not constructive.Your mum should be proud of you career or not! ( As if a career is the answer to happiness and well balanced individual....). So if you ask me, I my dear friend don' t give a s**** .
    PS my first degree with Hons in fine arts (painting, means I' m a master of painting! ) brought nothing but took all my creativity away it killed my desire to draw again and all because I was listening to destructive criticism...I everyday thanks my mum for teaching me the humble crafts who literally saved me from insanity!
    Keep the good job Kylie and chin up! Hugs from England xAlessandra